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With East Mosul Taken, Iraqis See Tough Fight For Western Part

A member of Iraqi rapid response forces fires a rocket launcher during a battle with Islamic State militants in Mosul earlier this week.

With east Mosul mainly cleared of Islamic State (IS) fighters, Iraqi officers are preparing for the next phase of the battle for Iraq's second-largest city.

Western Mosul, the last stronghold of IS fighters in the key city, is lined with narrow streets and alleyways that make it nearly impossible for tanks and large armored vehicles to pass through, taking away much of the advantage of the Iraqi army.

Nevertheless, officers say they are prepared to take the next step.

"We expect to enter the west in the next few days," Lieutenant General Abdul-Wahab al-Saad told the Reuters news agency.

Some 100,000 Iraqi troops, members of the Kurdish security forces and Shi'ite militiamen are taking part in the battle for Mosul, helped by U.S.-led coalition air strikes.

The UN estimates that 750,000 people are still in the city's west. With the narrow streets, Iraqi troops won't be able to fight from inside their vehicles like they did in the east.

"We don't have a strategy yet for these areas," Major-General Sami al-Arithi said. "For now, our approach will be to just surround them and wait."

U.S. Army Major General Joseph Martin told the Associated Press that "west Mosul will be as tough as east Mosul, and from our view even tougher."

The U.S. military said on January 21 that coalition warplanes this week hit a flotilla of about 90 Islamic State boats and barges being used by the militants to escape east Mosul across the Tigris River,

Based on reporting by AP and Reuters
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